Team Ninja released the original version of Dead Or Alive 5 just about a year ago. Earlier this year, it released an optimized, slightly updated port called Dead Or Alive 5 Plus. Both of these games were very competent, beautiful fighters with little to complain about, so the devs must really be perfectionists to be releasing a third version of the game inside of a year. So what’s new in Dead Or Alive 5 Ultimate? I’ll get to that in a bit, but first, a breakdown of the game’s essentials for the uninitiated.
Everything that sets the DOA franchise apart from its contemporaries returns for one more round in Dead Or Alive 5 Ultimate. Team Ninja has taken the comments of over-sexualization to heart, and has set out to prove that their game can stand toe-to-toe with its competition. The roster feels more balanced. The visuals are breathtaking; CG-level character models and beautiful scenery combine with fluid animation and even sweat and dirt effects to create the best-looking fighter I’ve ever seen. It’s also worth noting that Team Ninja has gone to great lengths to westernize the game, eschewing the huge anime eyes and cartoonish art style for a slightly more realistic take on the fighter.
Power Blows and the all-new Power Launchers are new super-powered attacks that can be performed once you are under 50% health. These slow-motion offensives end with your opponent flying into the destructive environment, dealing massive damage. They can easily turn a match around, but I feel that they are currently overpowered. These usually result in the opponent and the player falling from a seemingly lethal height, or triggering level-specific actions (called Danger Zones…Laaana!), such as derailing trains. The levels are all very interesting, from a waterpark-inspired battle on a raft on its way down a waterfall, a circus (with flaming hoops and tigers), a beautiful Japanese temple, and many more. New levels include a lush forest during fall weather, the return of the Lost Island stage from Dead or Alive 3, and a few stages inspired by Ninja Gaiden 3 – Aircraft Carrier, Sky City Tokyo, and Desert Wasteland. Danger Zones can be turned off, for those craving a more traditional fighting experience. There are also all new outfits and characters. Survival mode is back from Dead Or Alive 2, and is a great addition. It challenges players with overcoming an onslaught of opponents with only one life, but defeated enemies drop health items. Team Fight is pretty cool – each player creates a team of 7 characters that are fought in quick succession – but unfortunately it can’t be played online. Unfortunately, Dead Or Alive 5 Ultimate is also incompatible with other versions of the game online, but at least you can load up your progress from the previous version to Ultimate.
Beyond that, the game is packed to the brim with cool features. There’s Facebook integration, an online training mode, a fully-featured Story mode with high production values, the obligatory online matches, and more. The story mode features full voice acting and many well-produced cutscenes, in a story that ties all of the game’s fighters together. The game even has bonus missions to complete during each match of the story mode, and while they are designed to help you get acclimated to the functions of the game, sometimes the AI can be so tough that you forget about the objectives and just focus on survival. It’s a good idea to explore the in-depth training mode from the main menu; it’s extremely deep and will help you master your favorite fighters in no time. I found it indispensable for getting the hang of the timing on the tweaked counter system, which feels heavily refined since the first version of DOA 5.
There are plenty of cameos in the game, ranging from Ryu Hayabusa, Momiji and Rachel of Ninja Gaiden fame to Virtua Fighter’s Akira, Pai, Jacky Bryant and Sarah Bryant. I’m still not quite sure why they’re in here, but it’s pretty awesome to pit them against the normal roster.
Everything from the Vita port has made it into Dead Or Alive 5 Ultimate, and then some. All of the game’s vast tutorials have made their way into this release, allowing novices to grind their way up to a master level over time. The extra stages and myriad DLC costumes are here. There’s even an Online Dojo mode where you can meet up with another player online and train together. I wish more fighters would put as much effort into their training modes; though the game is not as accessible initially as its predecessors, it’s easier to master because of these modes. Though this series was once cast aside as nothing more than a pervy diversion by hardcore fighting game fans, it’s steadily improving to the point that they will take notice. Dead Or Alive 5 Ultimate is not only gorgeous, its mechanics are quite solid.
Overall, Dead Or Alive 5 Ultimate is a solid update to an already great fighting game, and it’s easy to recommend to those who missed the game’s previous outings. The new modes, characters, outfits, and stages breathe new life into the game, and its budget pricing makes picking it up a no-brainer for fans of the genre.